Lawsuits — the Great American Dive, Which Could Delay More Virus Aid
Author: Greg Valliere
May 5, 2020
IT’S OFTEN SAID THAT AMERICA’S GREAT SPORT is suing each other, as armies of well-paid trial attorneys endlessly battle over liability, divorce, malpractice, estates, etc. For them, the mother lode is coming — lawsuits in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.
THIS IS SUCH A BITTERLY CONTESTED ISSUE in Congress that it could derail — or significantly delay — the next tranche of aid, which is urgently needed for state and local governments. Both parties are bitterly divided over the issue of liability protection.
THIS BATTLE PITS manufacturers, technology and health firms, insurers and others against labor unions and plaintiffs’ lawyers; the latter are a huge source of campaign funding for the Democrats, while the former are embraced by Republicans who have long sought liability reform.
LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES: Get ready for late night TV ads from law firms eager to represent alleged victims of nursing homes, insurers, meat packers, restaurants, etc.
CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS over the coronavirus will persist for years. Your flight got cancelled without a refund? A class action lawsuit is just the ticket. Your college won’t give you a break on tuition payments? Join a class action lawsuit. You got sick after eating a hamburger made by an infected chef? Call a lawyer.
MUCH OF AMERICA IS OPENING UP this week — despite rising infections and deaths in many states and the refusal of almost all states to adhere to the Trump Administration’s criteria. What a perfect storm for lawsuits — which is why restaurants and many other businesses want protection in the upcoming legislation.
THIS IS ONE OF FIVE ISSUES that could stall the next relief bill: First, the overall cost as deficits surge; second, the insistence by President Trump that the bill must
include a payroll tax cut; third, strict standards for small businesses that might not deserve aid; fourth, assurances that aid to state and local governments will not include bailouts for poorly run pension plans; fifth, lawsuit protection.
RETURNING LAWMAKERS ARE LOOKING FOR COMPROMISES, so we could envision a deal on liability. Blanket protection against lawsuits may be too much; perhaps there could be a carve-out for gross negligence such as defective face masks and other protective gear. And there could be the creation of a federal fund to deal with lawsuits.
THE RHETORIC IS HEATING UP: Mitch McConnell calls looming lawsuits “a second pandemic” which could lead to massive bankruptcies. Democrats will focus on workers in grocery stores, meat packing plants, public transit, etc. The ultimate winner will probably be lawyers on both sides of this argument — for them, it will be the ultimate full employment act.
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